Tuesday, September 4, 2012

At the Feet of the King, Adoration -- Up Close and Personal

Warm anticipation enveloped me as I hit the pillow. No, this was not a hot date. It was Tuesday and tomorrow I would be visiting a king.

Wednesday was Adoration day at Sacred Heart Hospital.

Four years ago the small community hospital of about 243 beds was attempting to stave off a takeover by Lehigh Valley Hospital, a goliath. We in Pastoral Care viewed a non-Catholic identity for Sacred Heart an abomination so we decided to call in the big guns – that would be Jesus Christ, the Lord, the King, the beautiful merciful God for whom the hospital was named.

So we began Adoration -- the Catholic practice that stems from the belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Unlike many of our sister Christian faiths who believe communion is just a symbolic reminder of the Last Supper, we take the Gospel of John literally and believe through the priest's hands at Mass, ordinary bread and wine become the real body and blood of Christ.

This Wednesday was special, not only was I going to get to spend time at the feet of my king, I got to prepare the altar and lead the beginning and end of Adoration. This is an honor I don't deserve but someone needed to do it and I was available.

The day began with an intercom prayer and a message urging hospital employees, visitors, and patients, if able, to pay a visit to the little chapel to experience the peace and calm this practice can afford.

Then I carefully arranged candles and flowers on the altar. It was time to uncover the monstrance, the beautifully embellished holder in which the Blessed Sacrament would spend the day. I then went to the tabernacle and took the special host reserved for adoration and placed it in the monstrance.

I bowed before my sweet Jesus and began singing, “O Come Let Us Adore Him, O Come Let Us Adore Him, O Come Let Us Adore Him, Christ the Lord.”

Memories of the first time I heard the familiar Christmas carol in adoration swept me to a scene in a small dark chapel in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania. There I was sock-footed with a room full of Mother Teresa's sisters, wrapped in their white saris with blue trim,  bowing in joyful adoration, singing the familiar tune.

Other adoration memories from my youth filled my mind with incense and no real knowledge of what was happening – only that it was a very big deal – and that instead of a one-kneed genuflection, people knelt on both knees and maybe hesitated just a fraction before getting up and entering the pew.
That childhood awe has transformed to a real hunger for this beautiful devotion. Now, I can't do anything but bow before the blessed sacrament. It is his loving kingship which I am acknowledging. Mother Teresa's sisters taught me well. I understand now.

Through the years, I have fallen in love with Jesus. The Jesus that still loved St. Peter, even after he betrayed him. The Jesus who loved the woman caught in adultery. The Jesus who loved his mother, who looked after her, even from the cross.
I love the Jesus who healed – who still heals – our brokenness, our bodies, our minds, our souls. The Jesus who came to earth in a filthy stable, who is willing to enter into our very own dark, dirty selves, to stay with us and make us clean – yes I love Him, my king. Jesus who took my brokenness to the cross with him, I grew to be in love with him. 

This is one of my favorite readings from Luke:
A Pharisee invited him to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment,she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?” Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” He said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Luke 7:36-48

I love the Jesus, who allowed that woman -- some say Mary Magdalene, to pour costly perfumed oil all over his feet, to love him, extravagantly, blatantly, unabashedly.  I long to break my alabaster jar and love my king but for now I can spend precious time with him in adoration.

Oh come Let Us Adore Him!

This story was also published in Catholic Online      www.Catholic.org